Towards the end of September, I took a trip to Amsterdam with my husband and 4 other amazing couples. We were amazing in our own notorious ways, and needless to say, Amsterdam looked very promising to us during our planning stages. The fact that each couple towed along a stroller with a 2-year-old toddler wailing in it, didn’t even remotely hamper our determination to have some fun. And fun we had! While Peppa Pig helped to distract them at times, a hard stare and a harsh threat helped at other times. Most often, things were just haywire and we pretended as if the kids didn’t belong to us, just to save us some grace. Anyhoo, they had their share of entertainment and so all was indeed well! Here are 8 “touristy” things we did in and around the city with some cranky toddlers in tow.
- Eat a lot of waffles
Belgium maybe the kingdom of waffles, but as neighbors, Netherlands does a fair job too! We managed to devour down some really crunchy, soft and decadent waffles during our strolls around the city, and that definitely made the little eyes twinkle with excitement. The chocolate dipped ones received screeches of delight; the strawberry laid ones were fought for. A wafflethon never failed to put the tots and biggies in good spirits. P.s: go for the warm waffles fresh out of the griddle, laden with fresh berries and chocolate/cream instead of the cold waffles as they are harder and comes with glazed berries that are way too sweeter.
- Walk your way to the Artis Zoo
Amsterdam, like most other cities of Europe, is a place where you can walk and still not drop. The streets are beautiful and clean, with gorgeous sights on either sides and lovely, fresh air all around. Coming from Dubai, a land where walking is an act found only inside malls, thanks to horrendous weather conditions and general vanity, we didn’t miss the chance to walk all the way from our hotel at Seventeenth Century Canal Ring to the Artis Zoo. The zoo was perfectly sized with enough number of “safe and trained” animals and birds out in the open to fascinate the little ones and elders alike. The kids especially loved the super cute ducks peeping out of the foliage and the super cool Lemur performing yoga moves on a fence pole! A lush waterfall hidden inside a cave passageway took us by surprise and resulted in squeals of excitement. In all, a 19.95 euros per adult, very well spent.
- Take a Canal Tour
If you have toddlers in tow, this is a great touristy activity to experience the charm and warmth of the city. With 165 canals meandering over its length, breadth and perimeter, Amsterdam truly is a City Of Canals. The canal tour gave us the opportunity to see Amsterdam as a backdrop to the lulling waters, while listening to its enchanting history. The kids stuck themselves to the edge of the boats, their tiny heads outside taking in the pretty sights, their tinier hands waving at the ducks swimming past. The water, the boats, the ducks and the sheer excitement of it all compounded to their thrill and the canal ride that lasted about 75mins was agreeably an enjoyable experience. Canal tour tickets range from 14-16 euros per adult depending on the operator.
- Take a pitstop at the Rembrandt Square
This is one of those squares that the kids totally loved! Life size statues, stalls featuring masterpiece artworks and a kit of hyper active pigeons- the square has a charm that works well on the wandering tourists. While we grownups took to checking out the various stalls and indulging in some ever-present waffles, the kids had an amazing time rolling in the lush lawns, scurrying with the pigeons and unavoidably studying the texture of pigeon poop in their tiny fingers! Caution- just remember to carry A LOT of baby wipes. You are going to need them. Consider Dam Square too, for the flock of pigeons and the very many steps to squat and build friendships on.
- Enjoy the tour of Zaanse Schans
This one comes highly recommended. Our toddlers enjoyed the hike up to the windmills district of Zaanse Schans where cold winds swept their hair in all directions and ensured a permanent grin on their face! Photography is easy here, as every angle is a scenic beauty, every frame a picturesque landscape. The only hindrance we faced was the difficulty in carrying the stroller up to the windmills as there were quite a few stairs. Souvenir shops are quaint and interesting, though I felt the waffle shop alongside was a ripoff with disappointing produce.
- Take the trip to Edam-Volendam
Most of the operators continue the above-mentioned tour to cover the pretty towns of Edam and Volendam as well. It includes a visit to a local clog factory where staffs dressed in traditional Hollandaise clothes demonstrate how the famed wooden shoes, that has come to represent the identity of Holland, are created. A few minutes walk takes us to the harbor where we board the boat to go to the charming fishing village of Volendam. A tour of The Cheese Factory (where its nearly impossible to refrain from purchasing the whole shop down!), is followed by a relaxed walk around the village, exploring the local cuisine and shops, until you take the bus back to the city, content but hoping to be back some day.
- Go crazy treating your taste buds
Brilliant food awaits you at every street and corner of Amsterdam. So just empower those nostrils, sniff up to where your intuitions take you, switch on that cartoon/open up those MnMs and while they (the kids, of course) are distracted, sink your teeth into some precious local/international delicacies!
In particular, head to Cau near Dam Square and order their Wild Mushrooms on Toast- incase you are interested to taste THE BEST mushroom based dish in the planet for 6 euros. Creamy roasted mushrooms on sourdough toast with lots of herbs – I think my heart just fluttered at the memory. Sigh.
Or if you please, head down to Flo Brasserie near the Rembrandt Square to relish a roast leg of lamb served with linguini, salsa verde and a luscious rosemary sauce. Or a Duck liver terrine with rhubarb chutney and spicy muscatel jelly – a dish that long lingers on your taste buds in the right note and tune.
- Ride the tram, ride the bicycle
The entire city has cycle tracks around it, making it a splendid supporter of the non-polluting means of transportation. Umpteen rental companies are spotted around the squares making it easy to pick up a bike. Choose the one with a basket seat so that your toddler can be safely seated to enjoy the ride with you. Cycle around the city and outskirts drinking in the region’s undisputable beauty. Listen to them squeal with delight as you swoosh down the slopes. While you are at it, enjoy having that silly big grin on your face too!
If you don’t feel cycling is up your alley, take the tram. Those function well and serve the purpose quite efficiently. Show the little ones the sights outside the window and watch them appreciate the city they are touring!
- This post do not cover ALL the places we toured, as obviously, they weren’t kid-friendly. The list includes the Heineken Experience, the Red light district tour, pub hops and the visit to Madame Tussauds.
- Strollers are essential but a tad difficult to maneuver over the cobbled stone pathways.
- Since marijuana is legal in the country, the usage is prevalent in public spaces. Be prepared to get the smell of it (more or less faint) in public squares, bridges and everywhere else!
- When you have a baby/toddler in tow, I advice against packaged tours. In many instances, our Lil Foodkisser refused to be pushed around and stood ground to walk like a tourist. It would help to succumb to such demands ONLY when you are on your own and not under the glares of a dozen other time-bound tourists!
So, yes, thats Amsterdam of a sober kind for you. The city offers pleasures of all types and textures -so if you have your mind set on some fun, this is the place to be. Sure, things won’t be the same as going single and scot-free to go neck deep into “things”, but hey, where there is a will, there sure darn is a way!